Gmail is one of the best email apps available, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Luckily, there are a bunch of handy plug-ins, add-ons, and extensions that can add extra features to Google’s email service. Here are five of our favorites that make managing our Gmail inboxes even easier.
One of the main problems with emails is they don’t always arrive at convenient times, which means you get distracted from whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing instead of sifting through your inbox. BatchedInbox attempts to solve the problem by having all your messages arrive on your schedule. You can choose from an hourly or daily delivery time.
Once you’ve granted BatchedInbox access to your Gmail account, you’ll notice the plug-in creates a special label that catches all your incoming messages, waiting until the specified times before moving them back to your inbox. If you really, really need to see new emails before then, you can simply run a normal search for the BatchedInbox label in Gmail.
Inbox Pause works in a similar way to BatchedInbox, but lets you manually press ‘pause’ and ‘resume’ on the incoming deluge of messages whenever you like. Of course you could just close down the Gmail tab in your browser to achieve the same effect, but if you want to keep your Gmail tab open while controlling the flow of incoming messages, this is a perfect tool.
When you click the Pause button for the first time, you get the option to set an auto-responder message so all your friends and colleagues know you’re being stricter about your email use. Like BatchedInbox, a special label is used to temporarily store incoming emails, and you can opt to have them appear on a schedule if you prefer.
Checker Plus for Gmail is a Chrome extension that adds all kinds of bells and whistles to Google’s email client, free of charge. You can, for example, get customizable desktop and toolbar alerts for new messages, get contact pictures to show up alongside emails, arrange specific ‘do not disturb’ times, and basically get at your email from anywhere.
The main advantage of having this extension installed is you can manage your email—from marking messages as read to composing new messages to running searches—without having a Gmail tab open all the time. What’s more, it supports multiple accounts in the same window, so you don’t need to keep switching between them.
The smart FollowUpThen system isn’t just for Gmail, but it works well with Google’s email client (on any platform) and doesn’t ask you to install any extra software or plug-ins. It uses simple email addresses—like firstname.lastname@example.org, for example—to create reminders or to snooze messages for a while.
So, you could create a reminder email that appears in your inbox whenever it’s your wedding anniversary, or snooze some emails for a week, or remind yourself to chase an email enquiry by adding one of the FollowUpThen addresses in the BCC field. There’s lots of flexibility here, and the service is free if you need less than 50 follow ups a month.
More for those of you who use Gmail as part of your job, ActiveInbox pricing starts at $3.30 per month but you do get a wealth of features in return for your cash. You can sort emails into folders, schedule times for messages to be sent, get notifications when someone’s opened a message you sent them, and get a better view of the most important emails.
After you’ve got ActiveInbox up and running (there’s a free trial you can start before you have to part with any cash), you get a number of extra buttons and features inside Gmail on the web, letting you organize emails into tasks and projects, and add notes if necessary. You can also change the way emails are displayed and sorted inside Gmail.